Support inclusive college ministry on #GivingTuesday and beyond

Support inclusive college ministry on #GivingTuesday and beyond November 29, 2016

open table

We’re starting an end of the year giving campaign on GoFundMe for our campus ministry NOLA Wesley since it’s #GivingTuesday. We got feedback that some folks would be more comfortable with a one-time donation than committing to a monthly pledge (which are preferable for our long-term survival).

To help you understand where we are, we need to generate about $40,000 in additional annual revenue. This figure wouldn’t be daunting if we were a congregation where 400 tithing members worshiped every week. But because our constituency is college students, they are not earning money to tithe and their parents are paying pretty steep tuition bills. And we aren’t going to make it on car washes and bake sales where we net a couple hundred bucks each time. That’s why I’m praying that somebody with means will read this blog and help us out.

If you’ve been trying to figure out what you can do to respond to the new reality we face in our country, supporting inclusive campus ministry is a great way to do it. Not only are you providing a safe space for marginalized students who are facing hostility in our country right now, but you’re also investing in the future of our church. For us, inclusivity does not imply moral laxity but rather gives us a framework for understanding our pursuit of holiness. We are seeking the heart of Christ so that we can be God’s solidarity with the world. To this end, we have identified four core values for our ministry.

1. Open Table

The centerpiece of our ministry is a Sunday evening meal that we share together every week during which we sing praise songs, read a scripture passage, have a conversation about Jesus, and share in holy communion. Each week, we expect to hear the Holy Spirit speak through everyone present at the meal regardless of where they are in their faith journey. Though Jesus is the host of our meal, our table is open to people of all faiths and spiritual inclinations. The majority of the students at our table did not grow up United Methodist. We actually have a B’hai and a Muslim who attend our gathering on a regular basis. Hospitality to all is one of our most important values.

2. Safe Space

Different students within our fellowship have different spiritual needs and levels of readiness. We seek to create safe spaces where they can share their struggles, questions, and doubts without fear of condemnation. Some spaces are characterized by rigorous Bible study; others stick to friendship-building without theological content. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in creating the spaces that will be most beneficial to our students where they are. We don’t believe that spiritual growth is accomplished through shame and pressure, but only in the context of unconditional grace. For us, self-acceptance is the starting point of the journey rather than self-hatred.

3. Changed Lives

Though we seek to be completely gracious with everyone who comes to us, we also expect to have our lives changed by the Holy Spirit. We enter into this journey as sinners who want God to heal us of our flaws. We want for all of our lives to reflect our commitment to Jesus as his disciples. With this in mind, we invite our students when they’re ready to enter into deeper levels of intentionality and covenant regarding their spiritual practices and lifestyles.

4. Transformed World

We share the United Methodist vision of creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We cannot satisfy ourselves with personal piety when we live in a community where there is so much need and injustice. NOLA Wesley is involved in supporting the local community through acts of service like Habitat projects, homeless meals, and tutoring as well as supporting social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign.

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